(Filbert’s original sign from way back in the day.)
Stepping to the front of the line, ignoring the spark singing across my toes, I craned my neck, trying to sneak a peak around the stacked blue flats filled with hotdog & hamburger buns, wheat & white loaves, and crinkly crumpet packets. Unfortunately, the fresh from the oven baked goods completely covered the faded drawing a bored hand had placed on the exposed beam, seven inched above the floor, in the backroom of Filbert’s Market across from the restrooms.
I’d been ten when an absentminded stock clerk left a marks-a-lot marker on top of an open case of peanut butter whilst Aunt Pearl stood in line to ‘spend a penny.’ Due to the unexpected urgency of her call of nature, Aunt Pearl failed to notice me swiping the pen as I passed the stack of case packs.
Sitting on the chipped cement floor in the narrow space betwixt some boxes and the wooden beam, waiting for Aunt Pearl to reopen the restroom door, I doodled a bulbous nosed man looking over a wall then wrote ‘Killroy was here!’ above it. My grandfather introduced the piece of wartime graffiti to me the weekend before on his visit, and it sparked my imagination. (The drawing, not the war in which my grandfather fought. I didn’t learn until much later about his time in France.) Envisioning the real Killroy’s broad smile in my mind’s eye, should he happen to spot my effort in keeping his chain-letter-cartoon alive, I failed to register the warning my prickly toes tried to give me.
An Errant, who was none too pleased with my unsanctioned scribbling, towered over me.
He delivered a four-letter fortified dressing down on the disrespect I displayed towards him, the workers, and the owners when I chose to deface the store’s two-by-four. After concluding his comprehensive diatribe on my overall lack of regard for others, he turned to storm off – only to stop cold at my quiet apology.
I’m fairly certain the only way Samuel Washington will ever fully forgive me for the drawing is to paint over it. However, since it was a job of work just reconsecrating his Origin Point, I’m not going to try and erase the decades-old doodle. No matter how much it bugs him. (Plus, at this point, I think he might actually miss it if it was gone.)
“At least your drawing makes sense. The new shop-girls keep drawing that cat/rabbit thing.”
Following his eyes, I glanced over at the employee bulletin board next to me. There amongst the official minimum wage posters, recall notices, and one chinchilla rehoming advert was a series of Totoro illustrations of varying quality. Wordlessly I slipped my phone out of my pocket, tipped it towards Samuel, so he could see the screen and pulled up the synopsis of the classic animated movie.
“Oh, it’s from a picture show…. Still would be nice to know if this Totoro is a rabbit or a cat.”
Shrugging my shoulders slightly in response, I took an extra second to flip over to my FLYT ap to make sure Mr. Fernandez hadn’t finished early (he hadn’t). Canting my head towards the restroom door, who’s rattling lock signaled its’ impending opening, I waited for the produce clerk to hustle past before stepping into the vacant room. Samuel, who’s never been thrilled at our meeting arrangement (but hasn’t thought of a better way for us to speak in private), popped reluctantly in behind me.
Starting the stopwatch on my phone, since there’s only so long you can spend in a semi-public restroom without arousing unwelcome attention, I got immediately down to business. “Has a man in a green suit come around to visit or shown interest in your genesis point?”
My question got Samual’s attention. “No, no one I don’t know has stopped by. Is there a threat?”
“I don’t know. Abraham found this unknown Errant inspecting Eliza’s spot and chased him off. I wanted to make sure you knew, in case he shows up here.”
Samual let loose a delightful string of colorful four-letter words.
Finally, winding up his litany of profanity (a habit of his which, as a kid, I found highly educational as he’s got some real zingers in his arsenal), he turned back towards me his face taunt. “Is there any way I can help?”
“Keep an eye out, use the Relay to get word to me if you see him or find any hint he’s been here. I’ll come right away.”
Raking his hand across his close-cropped hair, he gave a short bark of laughter that held many things, joy not being amongst them. “You think the Relay will help me if this Errant has anything but benevolent intentions? I haven’t been able to Flare for decades. Hell, you can’t even feel my genesis point unless you’re practically standing on it.”
There’s a thought.
Looking down at the ever-increasing number on the stopwatch, I sighed and shoved aside a whole new set of questions. “I know. But whoever this guy is, he ran when Abraham Flared, so perhaps his Vita is limited as well? The Relay might warn him off. It’s early days yet. Hopefully, I will know more soon.”
Shoulders slumping, threadbare bitterness supplanted his anger. “I doubt this Errant will locate me, riveted in place as I am, but I’ll let you know if he swings by.”
Knowing any effort to cheer him would only renew his anger. I moved on as the stopwatch told me our time had nearly run out.
“Is there anything new here I should know about?”
Samuel shook his head. “No, nothing that would cause me any problems. Though Donald Knouser, in seafood, stole a bag of frozen ahi tuna poke on Monday.”
After writing the information on my to-do list, I walked over, flushed the toilet, and then waited for a few beats before turning on the tap. “I’ll let the manager know. Anything else?”
Turning off the tap, I pulled a paper towel out of the dispenser, tossed it away, and turned off my stopwatch just as it hit three minutes. “I swing by on Saturday as usual. Please be careful, Samuel.”
Giving me a curt nod Samuel left. Letting loose a heavy sigh, I unlocked the lock and stepped across the threshold towards the oversized stockroom doors.